SETI Workshop On Communicating Across The Cosmos

At SETI's conference next week, scientists are set to ponder the problem of long-distance communication. Really long distance. The name of the international workshop is “Communicating Across the Cosmos: How Can We Make Ourselves Understood by Other Civilizations in the Galaxy?"

"As we search for a universal language to communicate with civilizations beyond Earth, where should we start? Math? Pictures? Something else?" asked Douglas Vakoch, Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute and organizer of the workshop. "It may be much more difficult to create an understandable message than we’ve thought in the past, and our workshop faces those challenges head on. "Recommendations from the meeting will be incorporated into the final report of the International Academy of Astronautics’ Study Group on Interstellar Message Construction.

"In the past few years, astronomers have shown that most stars have planets, so there could be many worlds where life has arisen," said David Black, President and CEO of the SETI Institute. "If we discover life beyond Earth, especially technological life, it would have a profound effect on humanity. We need to take concrete steps now to plan for first contact. The SETI Institute just held a workshop on Non-Human Communication that examined the complex languages used by other life forms on this planet. The insights that we gain into the fundamental aspects of communication from those types of studies inform us potentially about communication with non-terrestrial life forms."

At the workshop, speakers from six countries will draw on disciplines ranging from astronomy and mathematics, to anthropology and linguistics, as they debate the best ways to create meaningful messages. "As we explore ways to communicate with intelligence in the cosmos, we need to do so intelligently," explained Pierre Schwob, Vice Chairman of the SETI Institute’s Board of Trustees.

One of my personal science-fictional favorites is the Dirac Transmitter from Cities in Flight by James Blish, which he also called a "universal transmitter":

Amalfi went to his office, where he took the flexible plastic dust cover off a little-used instrument: the Dirac transmitter... it operated instantaneously over any distance.

The obsolete model had no screen...

It's kind of like galactic Twitter...

From SETI and the How Can We Make Ourselves Understood by Other Civilizations in the Galaxy? conference.

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